At the Bridgeman’s Hall in Northeast Philadelphia Sunday former IBHOF World Lightweight champion southpaw Paul “The Pittsburgh Kid” Spadafora lead 23 new inductees into the PAB HOF for the 2020-21 year.
Upon being introduced by Nino DelBuono and receiving his award from John DiSanto, Spadafora said “I want to thank my creator God.” He then walked off the stage to his 71 year old mother and kissed her.
This writer asked Spadafora for a future interview wanting to do an article on him and got it the next night over the phone after receiving an email from his former fiance’ and mother of their son Geno Paul Spadafora (who turns 17 on December 1st) Nadine Russo with their phone number.
Spadafora’s career ended with a 49-1-1 record with 19 stoppages. He was inducted in 2020 but due to Covid-19 there were no PAB HOF inductions until this year. He was 85-5 in the amateurs winning the well-known Ohio State Fair twice. He was trained by PK Pecora his first fourteen fights before he passed away. Then Tommy Yankello took over followed by Jesse Reid and Yankello again.
“I trained Paul Spadafora from 1997 to 2003 through his title run from (1999 to 2003). Then again from 2011 to 2014. I trained him for a total of 27 fights. I trained him for more fights in his professional career than any trainer he ever had. Paul was the most cerebral fighter I have ever trained. He had great ring IQ. He truly understood the geography of the ring. He was great at understanding range and was able to beat physical speed with mental speed through anticipation, rhythm, and positioning. I believe I am the only one who truly understands how great he was. Unfortunately he will probably always be underappreciated and underrated. Paul was an All Time Great! This quote was from Tommy Yankello.
“Mike Acri, of Erie, PA, promoted quite a few of my fights and did a great job with me. PK taught me how to fight. I fought everybody in the gym. He said everything you get from a trainer take something from it. He said be careful, cautious and safe. You do not have to move away to be far but stay inside. Tommy Yankello taught me fundamentals. Jesse Reid taught me leverage. I was with Pernell Whitaker for three years in Indiana. Don Turner taught me you are not doing the right thing in life, eating right, your friends ain’t right, your booked,” said Spadafora.
Turning professional in October of 1995 Spadafora won his first twenty-six fights before winning the vacant IBF World Lightweight title defeating Israel “Pito” Cardona, 31-2, of Hartford, CT, with a lopsided decision by scores of 119-1 09, 119-108 and 120-108 at the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester, West Virginia, over 12 rounds, in August of 1999.
Before Spadafora’s next fight after winning the world title at the end of the summer of 1999 he had a sparring session with then WBC Super Featherweight champ Floyd Mayweather, Jr. “We agreed to have a sparring session and instead of the normal three rounds I insisted on six rounds. In the third round due to Mayweather and his father’s bragging prior to this Paul took over talking to Mayweather about his bloody nose and one eye starting to swell. He owned Mayweather by then. In the fourth round Mayweather tells me he wanted out but I told him he was getting his ass kicked and I insisted he had to go the full six rounds as agreed upon. Afterwards Mayweather lay on the canvas for twenty minutes completely exhausted,” said Jesse Reid.
Reid who was then Spadafora’s trainer had set up a camera prior to this and sent the tape to promoter Lou DiBella saying he kicked his ass once and he could do it again.
“He’s (Geno) 16 years old with nine amateur’s fights losing one and he’s really good. Having him in Vegas is good. He has a lot of his father in him, bone structure. He’s lean muscular and about 5:06 and 116 pounds. He’s got tremendous athletic ability. He’s a clean liver and a smart kid. He has good reflexes. He’s got speed and hit harder than Paul,” said Jesse Reid.
“Paul is one of the most loyal individuals I ever met. I had Jesse Burnett, Johnnie Tapia, and Orlando Canizales who were the same way. My son was the first to see Paul fight in Chicago (Rocky Martinez). He said he’s tremendous. When Mike Acri called me he said he has a kid who needs some help named Paul Spadafora. Paul is special with me. He’s someone God put us together. He could have been a super star. I had him from Israel Cardona to Leonard Dorin,” said Jesse Reid.
In taking a 10 round decision over Mexican Rocky Martinez, 29-2, of Chicago, two fights prior to winning the title in Chicago, IL, “I lost between 10-15 pounds to make weight,” said Spadafora. That was in January of 1999.
Four months after winning the title Spadafora returned to his home in Pittsburgh for his first title defense stopping Croatian born Renato Cornett, 30-2-1, of Australia, at 0:52 of the eleventh round of a scheduled 12. The referee stopping the fight was now Pennsylvania boxing commissioner and former referee Rick Steigerwald who attended the induction in Philadelphia, along with manager/promoter Derek Gionta.
“I refereed a lot of his (Paul) early fights and 3 or 4 of his championship fights on HBO, Showtime and Fox, etc. He’s a great dude, fighter, but his biggest opponent is his demons! He beats them, he wins it all,” said Steigerwald!
“It was great seeing him (Paul) being inducted into the PA Hall of Fame. He’s been involved with boxing his whole life and sacrificed everything to make a run at it. With all the obstacles he encountered along the way, he still managed to win the IBF lightweight title and never lost a title defense. Hopefully he continues to work with young boxers in Pittsburgh,” said Gionta.
”My 16 year-old son Geno is an amateur and will be turning pro when he’s 18 on December 1, 2022. He’s training in Las Vegas with my former trainer Jesse Reid. He may get some fights in Mexico after he turns pro”, said Spadafora.
Spadafora works with kids at 412 Boxing at 3rd Avenue Gym in downtown Pittsburgh and he works with other kids for free. He runs with the kids first thing in the morning. He makes a living today cutting down trees.
In Spadafora’s eighth title defense he was held to a controversial draw with IBF champion Leonard “The Lion” Dorin, 21-0 (7), at the Petersen Center, in Pittsburgh, PA, in May of 2003. Scores were 115-114 in his favor and 115-113 for Dorin and 114-114. “I thought I won the fight,” said Spadafora. The referee was Rudy Battle who was also inducted into the PAB HOF the same night as Spadafora.
It would be the last title fight for Spadafora at 135 as he moved up to 140. He hoped for a high paying rematch with Dorin but the latter wanted nothing to do with a rematch. “It could have been a $750,000 pay day in a rematch,” said Spadafora.
Spadafora moved up in weight and went onto win his next twelve fights after the Dorin fight before suffering his first loss at 48-0-1, to WBA Welterweight International champion from Venezuela Johan “El Terrible” Perez, 17-1-1, by majority decision in a WBA interim Super Lightweight title fight over 12 rounds by scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 117-111, at the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, in Chester, West Virginia, in November of 2013, fighting there for the fourteenth time there.
“I was cut in the first round and would end up with 21 stitches, but thanks to my cut man Buzzy Garnic (has a camp in California, PA, where Roy Jones, Jr. trains) I was able to continue,” said Spadafora.
Dorin from Romania, fighting out of Canada, would go onto stop Chucky Tschorniawsky, 23-7-1, in Canada in his next fight at welterweight 10 months later. In August of 2001 Spadafora had shut out Chucky T. Then Dorin would end his career getting stopped by Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, 37-6, in two rounds. “It was a body shot that stopped him,” said Spadafora.
This writer remembers seeing Spadafora in his first defense in March of 2000 managing to get through a televised defense against Victoriano “El Santico” Sosa, 24-1-1, of the Dominican Republic, over 12 rounds. Spadafora came off the canvas twice in the third round to recover showing the heart of a champion taking a 115-112, 114-112 and 116-111 decision at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
Sosa would go onto an 11-0-1 record in his next twelve fights before losing to WBC World Lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr., 29-0, by decision in April of 2003 at the Selland Arena, in Fresno, CA.
Spadafora on the other hand two months after the Sosa fight would defend his title for the second time defeating Mike “The Hammer” Griffith, 23-6, of Cleveland, OH, by TD in 10 rounds by scores of 98-92 twice and 95-95 at the Mellon Arena, in Pittsburgh, PA. Griffith would fight once more losing before retiring.
Next for Spadafora would be a non-title bout for months later defeating Rodney “Pitbull” Jones, 23-0, 100-89, and 100-86 twice in September in Chester, West Virginia. Three months later in December of 2000 Spadafora defended his title for the fourth time defeating Canadian Billy “The Kid” Irwin, 34-3, at the Lawrence Convention Center, in Pittsburgh, PA, over 12 rounds by scores of 117-110, 118-109 and 116-111.
In Spadafora’s fifth title defense in May of 2001 he defeated Joel Perez, 31-4-2, of Texas, by scores of 119-108 twice and 120-107, at the Light Amphitheater, in Pittsburgh, PA. In August in a non-title fight he defeated Charles Tschorniawsky, 20-3-1, by scores of 100-89, 99-91 and 99-89, in Chester, West Virginia.
In March of 2002 in Spadafora’s sixth title defense he defeated tough Angel ”El Diablo” Manfredy, 39-5-1, over 12 rounds by scores of 115-113 on all cards at the A.J. Palumbo Center, in Pittsburgh, PA. Manfredy won a title eliminator in his previous fight over Julio “The Kidd” Diaz, 23-0, by split decision. “Prior to that fight Manfredy defeated Lamar Murphy who I had in camp with me for my fight with Manfredy and he was great puncher,” said Spadafora.
In November Spadafora’s seventh defense he defeated Denmark’s Dennis “The Menace” Holbaek Pederson, 43-1, by scores of 118-110 and 117-111 twice at the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Casino, in Chester, West Virginia. This was his last title win prior to the Dorin fight.
After the Dorin fight Spadafora would move up to super lightweight winning twelve straight with four by stoppage. One of the wins included stopping Costa Rica’s Francisco “Pancho Azul” Campos, 18-0-1, in the tenth round at the Chevrolet Ampitheater, in Pittsburgh, PA, in July of 2004.
In November of 2006 Spadafora stopped Frankie “Panchito” Zepeda, 16-3, in 5 rounds at the Avalon Hotel, in Erie, PA. In March of 2007 he won a split decision over Osin Fagan, 17-3, at the Soaring Eagle Casino, in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, by scores of 98-91, 97-93 and 95-96, having a point deducted for low blows in round 8.
After two more wins in September of 2009 Spadafora defeated Chicago’s Jermaine “Too Sweet Hawk” White, 17-3, at the Heinz Field VIP Tent, in Pittsburgh, PA, over 8 rounds. In 2010 he scored a pair of stoppages one in March over Italy’s Ivan “Matador” Fiorletta, 24-5-2, in 8 rounds, at the War Memorial Auditorium, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The other stoppage was in November stopping Mexico’s Alain “Konan” Hernandez, 18-8-2, in 5 rounds, at the Mohegan Sun Casino, in Uncasville, CT.
Returning the ring after 18 months in August of 2012 Spadafora defeated Ecuador’s Humberto “Bam Baby” Toledo, 39-7-2, by scores of 80-72 twice and 79-73, at Chester, West Virginia, over 8 rounds. In December He defeated Nigerian Solomon “Stylin” Egberime, 22-3-1, of Australia, by scores of 98-92, 100-90 and 96-94, again in Chester, WV over 10 rounds.
In April of 2013 Spadafora defeated Robert “Red Hot” Franckel, 32-12-1, over 10 rounds by scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93, for the vacant NABF Super Lightweight title, at Chester, WV. Then came his first and only loss to Perez.
Spadafora would end his career in July of 2014 defeating Mexico’s Hector “Charro Negro” Velazquez, 55-21-3, by scores of 79-73 twice and 80-72, over 8 rounds at the Rivers Casino, in Pittsburgh, PA.
“I have pictures on a wall of past Pittsburgh greats like Charley Burley, Billy Conn, Harry Greb and Fritzie Zivic,” said Spadafora.
It was a great career for Spadafora and he should eventually be inducted into the IBHOF.